Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back Home Again

August 25, 2009

Peace and Good,

I made it back home again safe and sound. Last blog I took you up to the end of the retreat with the friars in formation. I returned to Nairobi via our various friaries in Kenya. When I got back, I gave a seminar day at the house of studies on a Franciscan approach to Scripture. The first hour was an overview of how St. Francis, St. Clare and St. Anthony used scripture. The thing that was so profound about St. Francis' approach was that he believed that God was speaking directly to him through scripture. He loved the Bible so much that he instructed his friars that if they found a piece of parchment with words written upon it, they should pick it up and they should treat it with respect for the Word of God might be written upon it. The other two hours of the seminar were how a modern Franciscan could approach the Gospels and the Book of Revelation today.

The next day I gave a two hour workshop to the postulants of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Assisi. These are the sisters who cooked for us in the noviititiate and the seminary. I have always felt a great debt of gratitude toward them. I have given them conferences and retreats in the States, Italy, Romania and now in Kenya.

I visited our press in the city in Limuru. They print a magazine and have used my articles over the years in that work. It is so odd to meet people in Kenya and have them ask you if you are "The Father Jude." We are talking about me writing a book on the Book of Revelation for them.

On the last Sunday in Kenya I celebrated two of the Masses at the Nairobi parish of the friars and then I gave a talk in the afternoon with an hour of questions and answers on the faith. At the second Mass I welcomed two people into the faith and I had the privilege of confering the Sacrament of Confirmation upon them. This was the first time that I have done this in my priesthood.

I flew to Accra, Ghana on Monday of last week. That evening I gave a two hour talk to our postulants there on the Book of Revelation. Then, the next day, I flew back to the States.

The odd thing about this journey is that every step of the journey there were glitches. For example, in Kenya, there was a three day strike the days before I flew out. When I arrived at the airport on Monday, there was a three hour wait until I got to the window. When I got there, they told me I was on standby. I have learned a lesson in these circumstances. Just stand where the agent can see you and not forget you in the rush. Eventually, the supervisor found me a seat (which, of course, was double booked).

God made up for all the glitches on Tuesday morning. For some reason, when they gave people their boarding passes, they hadn't given them seat assignments. They kept calling people up to give them their assignments. Then they called me forward, but I already had my assignment. Given everything that had happened up to this point, I was filled with anxiety. When I got up there, they had changed my seat assignment from 20 C to 1 C. I couldn't believe that they had bumped me up to first class for a 10 hour flight. I had a grin on my face all the way back.

Saturday I gave a day of recollection to a group of catechists from St. Mary of the Mills Parish here at our friary in Ellicott City. It was an enjoyable group. Then, yesterday I gave a day of recollection to the parish and school staff at All Saints parish in Manassas, Virginia. Again, what a wonderful group. The theme was about finding our holiness in the heart of Jesus.

This week I will be home, doing some editing on various projects.

I finished a book yesterday: The Skull and the Jesuit by Amir Aczel. It is the story of Teilhard de Chardin and his scientific work in discovering a fossil of prehistoric man called Peking Man. The book is well written. There is a bit of pro-Teilhard prejudice when it deals with his difficulties with Jesuit Superiors and Church authorities, but overall it is well done. It is interesting to see how Teilhard tries to reconcile his faith with his scientific discoveries on evolution. Remember, Pope John Paul II taught that we can believe in evolution, as long as God is behind it all (what we call intelligent design).

Keep well and


fr. Jude

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Off to Africa: Nairobi, Kenya: August 1, 2009

August 11, 2009

Peace and Good,

Well, I finally got internet access so I can fill you in on the latest. I am in Nairobi and other sites in Kenya giving a retreat to our friars in formation as well as a series of talks.

I was originally supposed to fly over here on Delta, but a couple of weeks before my departure, they stopped flying there. (The reason is that our ATF was not satisfied with the security arrangements in Nairobi.) They gave me another flight package, which meant flying through Accra, Ghana there and on the way back with a 12 hour layover in and an 18 hour layover on the way out. That was actually not bad, because I contacted the friars there and they were going to pick me up and I would stay at the friary in Accra.

On the day of departure, I never got past the Baltimore airport. The weather was bad in New York (where my flight to Accra was to originate), so I missed the connection. It took three hours and four dropped phone messages to make a new reservation, this one through London with only a 3 hour layover. I purposely flew to New York 6 hours early lest the weather interfere again (which was lucky, because the weather in Baltimore later in the day was terrible).

The flight itself was very good, if very, very long. When I got in, my bags did not. Fortunately, I have learned always to pack a change of clothing in the carry on just in case. The first bag arrived on Sunday, the second on Tuesday (just after I left for the retreat house, three hours away). Still, the friars here and especially fr. Giles who is from my province and teaches here were great. Anything I needed, even before I asked, was placed at my disposition.

I gave a five day retreat to thirty-two of our theology students from Ghana, Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania. The theme of the retreat was the priesthood, for this is the year of the priest and that is what they are studying for at this point. I was very impressed with their fervor and commitment.

After this, we had to drop some friars off at two of the friaries, each a few hours from each other. This gave me a chance to see our friary in Seboukia, which is the national Marian shrine for Kenya. Right now, the shrine is a converted garage, but construction has begun on the Basilica and the friary. The friars have a work crew and they quarry the stone themselves. It is on a mountainside with 250 acres of property. It is going to be an incredible site.

The day after we went to a friary in the diocese of Meru (Riuru). This was the friars' first site in Kenya when they arrived 25 years ago. There is a formation house, a friary, a Church, a convent for the three resident Felician sisters, a retreat house (for 20), and a dispensory. Again, the friars are doing great work.

I also forgot to mention that I visited our parish in Limuru (one hour from Nairobi). It is high in the hills and cold. (Kenya is much cooler than I would have expected. You need a sweater each night, and sometimes during the day.) We are on the equator, but at least a mile in elevation in this part of the country. In Limuru the friars have a parish and a printing press. Once again, they're doing incredible things. They work with a group of sisters who run an orphanage and a school for young women to learn to knit, sew, computer skilles, etc., so that they can find work.

The rest of this week I will be in Nairobi giving talks, etc. Next Monday I head to Accra, Ghana, and then Tuesday to Baltimore via New York.

I finished two books. The first is called the Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James Hornfisher. We call many people heroes these days, but this tells the story of a group of distroyers and distroyer escorts that fought a battle against unbelievable odds to save a group of carriers and the soldiers who had landed on one of the islands in the Phillipines during the Second World War. If you like military books, this is a must read.

The other is a book called Out of Mao's Shadow: the Struggle for the Soul of a New China by Philip Pan. It is a kind of Profiles in Courage of people who fight for freedom and human decency in China. It is not all an easy read because of the violence described, but it also is a very good book. Philip Pan was a Washington Post reporter who lived in China for many years. It is good to read something like this to balance the portrait we received during the Olympics.

Keep me in your prayers as I travel through Kenya.


fr. Jude